Teri Huet started her one-woman knitting school, Knitting 101, on a dare. Friends who had seen firsthand her teaching potential urged her to create a Groupon for a knitting class.
“So I thought, ‘Fine, I’m going to prove to you that no one wants to learn how to knit,’ ” Huet said.
She posted the Groupon for a knitting class discount on her birthday in early December five years ago. “I thought, if I have 20 people sign up, it’s a success.”
Five hundred and fifty people signed up.
“I was in tears,” Huet said, laughing as she remembered juggling the initial influx of knitters. Having spent years abroad working for the State Department and the United Nations, Huet was surprised to see most of those interested were in their 20s and 30s. During her years away from the United States, knitting had become trendy.
Those early classes — scheduled in the evenings at various D.C. locations while Huet worked full time managing adjunct faculty at the University of the District of Columbia, raised her high-school-age son and took night classes — grew into the nonprofit knitting school on Connecticut Avenue NW. In the years since, Huet has taught 1,500 people how to knit.
This summer, the D.C. resident is offering week-long knitting camps for children 6 to 13, with options for parents to learn alongside their kids. Huet, who has taught children knitting for several years through afterschool programs in Alexandria, came up with a teaching method just for kids.
Elsa Wang, 6, of Capitol Hill demonstrated the technique she had just learned in her week of camp, looping tan yarn around wooden knitting needles with tiny, deft fingers.
“First, you ‘get up in the morning’ and get this string; then you ‘get dressed’ and go like this; then you ‘go out the door’ and push all your work up to the top, and pop off,” Elsa explained.
She showed a visitor the swatch she’s working on. “I’m going to make a scarf or a blanket,” she said.
Huet said kids’ reactions to getting the hang of knitting are universal and straightforward: “Pure happiness. With adults, you’ll get a more verbal response about the joy of having this new skill. With kids, it’s like, ‘I can’t wait to show it to my best friend’ so they can knit together. That’s a common reaction — it goes back to knitting being social.”
Huet, who has taught many adults who claimed they could never learn to knit, said she wants to make knitting accessible for students of any age.
“Whether you’re an adult or a child, I want you to be comfortable in who you are as a knitter,” Huet said. “I teach kids how to cast on, and I teach them how to knit in the first class. By the end of the second day, I can add purl.
“The goal is not to put too much on the shoulders of a knitter,” she added. “If I overwhelm you, then you’re not going to succeed. . . . It usually takes 20 rows of knitting before the light bulb goes off. And once it goes off, you just keep knitting and knitting.”
Huet is working on a book about knitting for kids, including the story of how she learned to knit at her mother’s knee at age 7, when she wanted to make a blanket for her dolls.
“I started this program because of my mom; my mother’s since passed on,” Huet said. “When I started this, it was my way of connecting with her.”
She also hopes to find a platform for the folklore she’s gathered from her many cultural exchanges with knitters all over the world.
“We bring to our knitting who we are, ancestrally and historically,” Huet said. “One of the benefits of my living overseas for so long is I’ve always learned the local knitting approach, usually through the local babushka, the local grandmother, someone in the market. Each culture knits differently.”
Huet, who teaches North American knitting at her school, knits in the Irish style herself, honoring her Irish great-grandmother.
Elsa’s mother, Tara, and grandmother, Christine Alexander, were so impressed with her progress at camp that they joined in to knit with her during the course of the week. Alexander, who lives in Tenleytown, said she hadn’t knitted in 46 years, but Huet’s method inspired her to pick up the craft once more.
Watching Elsa’s grandmother knit, Huet noted that she appeared to be knitting in a Welsh style; Alexander confirmed that her family background was Welsh.
“It’s so much fun to come to Teri,” Alexander said. “It connects you to your mom, your grandma. It’s marvelous. It’s what knitting’s all about.”
Lanyi is a freelance writer.
Camps are $225 per week for full-day sessions and $109 per week for half days. The price includes all supplies. For information, visit www.knitting101.org.